MIDDLE ASSYRIAN PERIOD
- The term “Middle Assyrian” has two connotations: It is a linguistic term used to refer to the language of documents written in “Middle Assyrian” as opposed to Old or NeoAssyrian. In a historical context, it circumscribes the period between c. 1400 and c. 1050 B.C. that saw the rise of a new Assyrianstate after a long period of decline following the breakup of the Old Assyrian kingdom in c. 1741. This new era of Assyrian growth happened at a time of great international competition for political and economic supremacy in the Near East and the struggle for the control of the fertile valleys of Syro-Palestine. Egypt, Mitanni, and the Hittites were involved in this rivalry. Assyria only became one of the major players when Mitanni was in the throes of a disastrous civil war. Ashur-uballit I (reigned 1365–1330) emerged as an able and determined kingwho soon sent rather cocky letters to the pharaoh, with princely gifts of horsesand chariots, to initiate a royal gift exchange. He was also keen to establish good relations with the Kassite kings of Babylonia, and a friendship treaty was sealed by the marriage of the Assyrian princess to the son of the Babylonian king Burnaburiash I. The Assyrians duly intervened when a usurper dislodged the son from their union.Relations between Assyria and Babylonia continued to be tense, and it was in the Assyrians’interest to push the northern frontier of Babylonia farther south (it had been not far from the city of Assur at the time of Ashur-uballit). Due to the more expansionist dynamics of Assyria, they succeeded to enlarge their territory progressively. Adad-nirari I (reigned 1307–1275) pushed westward, conquering the Hittite vassal state Mitanni, and took its ruler prisoner to Assur. Fortified towns and permanent administrative control strengthened the Assyrian presence in the Habur and Balikh valleys. During the reign of Tukulti-Ninurta I (c. 1244–1208), the Assyrians consolidated their control of the northern and eastern borders by setting up garrisons and pacifying nomadic tribes. When the Babylonian king Kashtiliash IV tried to recapture some towns held by the Assyrians, Tukulti-Ninurta moved his forces southward, inflicted a defeat on the Babylonians, and assumed Assyrian control over the country, which was to last for some 32 years. Tukulti-Ninurta was assassinated by one of his own sons, resulting in political turmoil and the loss of territory, including Babylonia. The situation improved with the accession of Tiglath-pileser I (reigned c. 1115–1076). He was able to capitalize on the collapse of the Hittite empire and established a strong Assyrian presence in Anatolia. He led systematic but not altogether successful campaigns against various tribal groups, especially the Arameans in Syria, who proved a serious threat, and invaded Babylonia, which was at that time ruled by Nebuchadrezzar I.In the 11th century, persistent guerilla warfare by the Aramean and Sutean tribes weakened Assyrian military power; there were rebellions in most of the previously conquered territories, and Assyria was reduced to its “heartland” around Assur, Nineveh, and Arbela. After about 1050 B.C., all documentation ceased, and the end of the Middle Assyrian state remains unrecorded.
Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. EdwART. 2012.
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